2021 Annual Report
See our impact as we work to end homelessness.
A Community To Call Home
Vivian was one of the first tenants to move into East Clarke Place Senior Residence, VOA-Greater New York’s new building in the Bronx that provides safe and affordable permanent housing for low-income seniors, including those who were chronically homeless.
Originally from New York, Vivian moved out of state after a divorce. For fifteen years, she enjoyed a fulfilling career as a bank employee while raising her children and grandchildren.
She had always planned to move back after retirement.
But when her brother became terminally ill in 2014, she returned to New York in a hurry to care for him. With limited means and nowhere to go, she spent the first few nights on her ex-husband’s sofa before moving into her aunt’s apartment.
Though she was very grateful to her aunt, there were problems with the apartment. It flooded twice, had mice and was poorly heated. But perhaps worst of all, it was difficult for Vivian to get around with her walker.
For six years, Vivian had applied to affordable housing lotteries with no success.
Then in 2020, just when it seemed her efforts were futile, she was one of 84 applicants chosen—out of 26,000—to receive an apartment at East Clarke Place Senior Residence.
Vivian couldn’t believe her luck.
Not only is her apartment beautiful and spacious, but there is also a large community room. Vivian loves taking part in the group activities that VOA-Greater New York offers to help prevent social isolation among tenants. On Saturdays, her friends in the building gather for bingo, sometimes bringing homemade snacks to share. Vivian also participates in the on-site exercise classes run by Fall Stop...MOVE STRONG™. “They teach us how [to do things like] walk up a hill,” explains Vivian. “And even though I had hip surgery and broke my leg in July, I can now think about going back to work. I never thought I would say that!”
Vivian also appreciates all the help she gets from VOA- Greater New York staff. “If we need something, they’re there,” Vivian says.
“I’m so comfortable here that now I sleep late,” something Vivian says she never did before. “I wake up happy. I wake up singing.”
Maintaining Her Health Transformation
Leonia began life in foster care. Her mother, suffering from schizophrenia, was unable to care for her. At the age of four, she was taken in by an aunt who did everything she could to provide a loving and stable home.
But there were factors Leonia’s aunt could not control, like the hereditary aspect of mental illness and a susceptibility to substance use issues.
As a minor, Leonia began drinking alcohol before moving on to crack cocaine by the time she was 21. Then she got married and had three children, whom she managed to care for despite her struggles with addiction. When her marriage fell apart, and her aunt refused to take her in a second time, she once again became homeless.
After a year on the street, Leonia entered the shelter system, where she enrolled in a substance use rehabilitation program and recovered—an accomplishment she attributes to her desire to change and faith in God.
Still, she battled with anxiety and depression, issues that were exacerbated by the lack of autonomy or privacy in her previous shelter.
Not only did she appreciate having her own space, but Leonia began to develop strong relationships with staff. She credits her case manager, Marcia James, with making sure she never misses a dose of medication or appointments with her doctors—both of which are critical to making sure she remains on target with her health goals. Marcia also enlists Leonia’s new fiancé to help keep her on track.
The staff at Creston, along with Leonia’s friends and family, with whom she has recently reconnected, provide her with all the love and support she needs to maintain her positive transformation.
With access to health services like counseling and other professional resources, Leonia is doing so well now that Marcia has asked her to consider being a peer counselor.
Leonia would love nothing more than to support others the way VOA-Greater New York supports her.
“She has so much to offer,” Marcia explains.
The Value of Family
Just when Fabienne felt she was finally finding her footing, she lost her job and housing because of a health issue. She had been attending Kingsborough Community College and working two jobs, determined to create a better life for herself after moving to the U.S. from Chad. But without health insurance or family to turn to, she was forced to enter the shelter system.
As a young woman, Fabienne had been on the verge of graduating from journalism school when her father passed away suddenly, leaving her family penniless. To support them, she left school and moved to the U.S. on a Diversity Visa. Though she experienced many ups and downs, including periods of housing instability, Fabienne is a hard worker and managed to find jobs despite her limited English.
But this latest setback was discouraging for Fabienne— that is, until she was referred to VOA-Greater New York’s Jamaica Women’s Employment Shelter (JWES).
Then her whole life turned around.
JWES helps women who are homeless regain their independence by working with them to develop and achieve personal goals.
“The staff treat you like family,” Fabienne explains. “They really care.”
Fabienne took advantage of all the resources and applied herself to the curriculum with diligence. In fact, she impressed Camille so much that when a position opened at VOA-Greater New York, Camille suggested she apply.
Although Fabienne didn’t get that job, the confidence she had gained after receiving so much support and encouragement helped her persist, until she landed a Client Care Worker position at one of VOA-Greater New York’s other shelters, a job she enjoys more than she ever imagined she would. “I see myself in the people I work with. I want to do something [for them].”
Once Fabienne secured a steady income, VOA-Greater New York helped connect her with affordable housing, and today she is proudly self-sufficient—and supporting her relatives back home.
And Fabienne knows she can still count on VOA-Greater New York for support if she ever needs it.
“I love everything about VOA-Greater New York, Fabienne said. “That’s my family.”
Read the full 2021 VOA-Greater New York Annual Report below.